In a fair and equal world Toronto-based poet Dionne Brand would be widely recognised as one of the world’s foremost practitioners of poetry. Yet, in the UK for instance, her work hasn’t always been easy to find. Until, that is, Penguin Modern Classics published Nomenclature: New and Collected Poems in 2023.
Nomenclature is a huge tome – 623 pages long – which collects together 8 of Brand’s previous poetry collections as well as a new long form poem which gives the book its title. This is the essential Dionne Brand all gathered together in one place.
Brand’s work has a clear-eyed politically-conscious intensity, underpinning her textual experiments and linguistic adventures. She is immersed in the unflinching world of testimony, while looking forward, dreaming of a less hostile tomorrow. She chooses not to wrap human struggles or the human condition in a transcendent glow nor to swaddle in cotton wool memories. In Inventory she writes:
I have nothing soothing to tell you
that’s not my job
my job is to revise and revise this bristling list
In Lux magazine Brand was described by Sarah Matthews as “resolutely Black, decolonial, internationalist, lesbian, and staunchly, unswervingly leftist. Both her poetry and her activism take that fateful youthful epiphany of realizing the tear in the world, then make it a portal of observance and imagining.”
Dionne Brand was the subject of the SPL’s Nothing But The Poem podcast. Our usual host, Sam Tongue, took a deep dive into two of her poems: THIRSTY and FROM VERSO 4. Both can be found online at the Griffin Poetry Prize website.
Find out what Sam – and the Friends Of The SPL group – got from the two poems in our podcast.